I love the art of the late Rowland B. Wilson, equally skilled in cartooning, watercolors and conceptual art for animated films. I have yearned for a comprehensive compendium of his work, to no avail. HowEVer there is a book on the horizon that I am pre-ordering, that I would think all life-long students of art will want to as well. It's called, ahem, Rowland B. Wildson's Trade Secrets: Notes for Cartooning and Animation, and you can pre-order here. It sounds really inspirational.
Wilson's Playboy cartoons were always lovely to gaze at, with their spontaneous lush watercolor treatments. Anybody remember his dynamic ads for life insurance where the person who was unknowingly seconds away from death would cheerfully say, "My insurance company? Why New England Life, of course", or words to that effect?
Below, one of Wilson's many lovely film concept paintings.
Rowland B. Wilson — The Little Mermaid — concept painting
Let's not forget I was in the Great Gatsby novel and movie, where Tom Buchanan was not a good role model. Bruce Dern played me in the 1974 movie with Robert Redford and Mia Farrow — and Joel Edgerton will play me in the upcoming movie with Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan.
I was almost played by Ben Affleck but he had to pass due to a scheduling conflict. Oh, I know about scheduling conflicts.
This is a particularly narcissistic post, and I really don't mind if you turn around right now and head back out the door. But there is an autobiographical bias to this image blog anyway, so here goes.
As you may know, my name is Thom Buchanan. I used to spell it the usual way of 'Tom' when I was growing up. But one day when I was in the Army and had picked up my starched laundry at the base laundromat, I was shocked to see how much my fatigues had shrunk. I'm not a huge guy, but tall enough at 6'3 to know that these fatigues were not going to fit me. Well, yeah, even with my name sewn right on the pockets, I knew they weren't mine. Not only did this other soldier share my last name, he had the gall to have my first name as well. I met him once later and he was a scrappy little feller whose ancestors picked the name Buchanan back when President Buchanan was laying ground for the Civil War.
Well, I started running into all sorts of problems, getting my name confused with this guy on duty rosters, and payrolls, and the M.P.s even called on me once thinking I was this guy. So I started spelling my name with an aitch in it so I could go about my own screwed up business.
Anyway, people still refer to me without the aitch, even when they see how I spell it. There are any number of Tom Buchanans in the world, and now I've seen where there's another T-h-o-m Buchanan on the internet. Bless their hearts, but it feels like I've got doppelgängers out there living more interesting lives than mine.
Well, there's one more Tom Buchanan definitely living an exciting existence, even if he is fictional and has writers guiding his life:
There's a whole series of these books, authored by different writers using the same pseudonym of 'Jonas Ward'. Even though I'm not a fan of Westerns, it's awful fun to read adventure stories about a doppelgänger, who is "taller than most men by a head, with a look of wildness in his battered, tough face", who has many times "gone to meet death without pause and with great good nature". He's a pretty good role model, lean and mean and lookin' out for the underdog.
Not that you want to, but if you google Jonas Ward, there are some websites that list all the novels and synopses and stuff like that. The stories read pretty well and are well received by on-line critics. I plan on posting, every once in a while, another cover from the set that I have (I don't have them all), just for the fun of it.
I haven't yet seen the movie that was based on that first book above, but I've read that it's actually a pretty good flick. It was directed by Budd Boetticher, a well-respected director that I met some years ago. When I was introduced to him by name, he gave me an odd stare and then a besmirched smile, and now I know why, cuz he knew Tom Buchanan well. A side note about that meeting: I had drawn a portrait of Boetticher that he told me he liked a lot and would like to own it, but especially he said he liked the portrait I had done of Viveca Lindfors (showing her in her advanced years, long after starring with Ronald Reagan in some film or other). He said that she came across so well in my drawing that he was going to cast her in his next film. I don't know that ever came about, but he offered me a job as an art director at his film company in California. That didn't come about either, but now that I know he directed Randolph Scott as my doppelgänger, well I am just tickled.
In the poster above, Randolph Scott actually looks a lot like my dad when he was that age. Life is funny.
Dave Stevens' adventurous The Rocketeer was a way cool graphic novel that took place in the way cool '30s, with way cool aviation themes, including the (last time, I promise) way cool Gee Bee Series aircraft. The Gee Bee (stands for Granville Brothers, its designer & manufacturer) was a dangerous racing plane that only the most skilled pilots could handle — perfect for an adventure series. The 1991 film of The Rocketeer opens with a test flight (and crash) of a Gee Bee (Model Z) plane.
Below are several of Stevens' panels showcasing the Gee Bee, along with a couple of photos of the real thing.
Dave Stevens is certainly missed in the world of graphic storytelling.
Above, this rendering of the Gee Bee looks a lot like Russ Heath's art style. Knowing they were buds, I wonder if there was collaboration. Perhaps not.
Above, the Gee Bee Sportster was a less lethal version of the Gee Bee planes, but was also less maneuverable and less popular among the speedsters. A version of this plane also showed up in The Rocketeer.
Speaking of Superman, and the golden age, this is one of my favorite of his covers, especially of recent years. You never saw anything quite this dynamic in the golden age, yet it is fully evocative of those years. I think because the design is reminiscent of those great Fleischer animated shorts of the '40s and the stark logotype evokes a NY World's Fair Deco style. If more modern comics were like this, I'd be buying more modern comics.
The Golden Age of Comics is so much fun to look at, and this item is icing on the cake. The 1942 novelization of Superman by George Lowther helped to solidify the legend, including a description of Krypton in detail, re-naming Kal's parents as Jor-el and Lara (previously Jor-L and Lora) and so forth.
The illustrations are golden, by Joe Shuster—the original Superman artist, showing depth and vitality. The paintings are vibrant and the sketches are beautiful gesture drawings, full of spontaneous action. This book is just so much fun to look at!
Joe Shuster — illustrator throughout
Jor-el placed his infant son into the model of the Space Ship.
The steel bullet went hurtling into space
The anvil in his hand was like a feather.
Superman brought the old man to the surface.
Leering down at Kent were skeleton faces of a skeleton crew.
Superman caught the white-hot shell in his bare hands.
Superman felt the steel-like muscles of his shoulder
sink into the metal.
Superman forced his shoulders between the twin propellers.
This is a newspaper photo of me painting an imperial dragon for a museum exhibition of the "Imperial Tombs of China", with 250 artifacts on loan from 22 Chinese institutions, back (oh gosh) 16 years ago. Yes, I'm really painting here, 12 feet off the ground, not just posing (you can tell by the paper towel in my hand, with which to catch runs and drips) — the paint bucket is just out of sight in this photo. I painted all sorts of large-scale graphics for this exhibit, which I'd like to gather into a specialized portfolio someday.
I know this cave dragon is far afield from a Chinese Water Dragon, but dragons are dragons where e'er they may be.
This image is pulled from The Tale of the Rhine-Gold with Siegfried (I don't know where Roy is) doing his dirty work. For good luck, I suggest NOT killing any dragons this year.
Donn P. Crane — Siegfried Slaying Fafner
" . . . roused fearful Fafner from sleep and out of his cavern he came, a frightful, fire-breathing dragon, bellowing and roaring. The sight roused no fear in Siegfried; it only made him laugh. "Ha, ha!" he cried. "My lure hath charmed forth something lovely!" A terrible struggle ensued, with the dragon's yawning jaws and spouting breath of flame, threatening terrific destruction; but still Siegfried knew no fear; he calmly waited the moment when he could plunge his sword clean through the dragon's heart. Then Fafner's enormous coils relaxed in the stillness of death. Siegfried drew forth his sword and licked from his finger a drop of the venomous dragon's blood. Suddenly he noted that thus he had been made able to understand the speech of birds."
If you're a fan of Walt Kelly and/or Pogo, you need to keep in touch with the Ever-Lovin' Blue-Eyed Whirled of Kelly blog, where his classic cartooning art still lives! Special early art is appearing now!
Walt Kelly — Pogo Sunday strip panel detail — June 18, 1950
I am posting these images with a non-profit and educational 'fair use' motive, regarding respective copyrights. Anyone downloading and using these images for any commercial use would be in violation of respective copyrights, and does not have my approval for such use.
My name is Thom Buchanan.
I'm an artist and photographer.
People are my favorite subjects to portray in art and photos. My wife (and studio partner) has called that my 'people skills', as I've been passionately creating portrait studies for many years.
I refer to myself as a pictorialist, a combination of image-making and journalist. Images are my life.